Friday, February 26, 2016

The Hard Truth about Brick Ovens

Mason in West Virginia assisting me on a TBO oven
Building a brick dome, the traditional shape of brick ovens for thousands of years, is hard.  In comparison, a simple brick arch, like a vault, is easy.  So why do I build these domes and why don't I build vaulted arched ovens?

Taking rectangular bricks and building a dome challenges the spacial ability of the mason.  Sometime, at the beginning of my life as a mason, I discovered that not only are traditional forms strong, but they give lasting satisfaction to the builder and the viewer.

The final reason, after the strength of domes, the aesthetic of domes, and the tradition of domes, is that domed brick ovens heat more evenly.  Vaulted arches in brick ovens is an invention of the industrial age.  The flat rear wall needed to enclose a vaulted arch is well suited to the use of alternated fuels.

Ovens with corners leave parts of the oven unevenly heated, leading to complicated product management.  I grant that if you are placing rectangular bread pans in the oven, a rectangular space will accommodate more pans... but hearth loaves (boules, baguettes, and other rounded shapes) do just fine.

My portable demonstration oven is designed after the Audrix oven shown below.

Weekly baking of bread in Audrix, France in a 2 meter diameter dome oven

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